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Ellis Rabb Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (5)

Overview (2)

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Died in Memphis, Tennessee, USA  (heart failure)

Mini Bio (1)

Ellis Rabb was born on June 20, 1930 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He was an actor and director, known for The Royal Family (1977), The Dain Curse (1978) and Great Performances (1971). He was married to Rosemary Harris. He died on January 11, 1998 in Memphis.

Spouse (1)

Rosemary Harris (4 December 1959 - 1967)

Trivia (5)

Won Broadway's 1976 Tony Award as Best Director (Play) for a revival of "The Royal Family." He had been previously nominated as Best Director (Dramatic) in 1966 for a revival of "You Can't Take It with You."
His theatrical vocal intonations were Kelsey Grammer's primary inspiration for the voice of Sideshow Bob. Both appeared in Cheers: Rabb as a guest star in the first season, and Grammer as a series regular from the third season on.
He was nominated for a 1978 Joseph Jefferson Award for Guest Artist for his performance in "Twelfth Night" at the Academy Festival Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
Celeste Holm (1917-2012), in early 1971, was asked to open the new University of Michigan Professional Theatre program's new just finished stage facility. Celeste Holm and her husband Wesley Addy (m. 22 March 1966-31 Dec 1996, his death) approached their friend Claibe Richardson with the proposal; to present his recent musical "The Grass Harp", staged at the Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium by the Trinity Square Repertory Company, produced and directed by Adrian Hall, to open the new theatre at Michigan University, Ann Arbor. Celeste and husband Wesley Addy had been looking for a musical property for Celeste to perform. Broadway producer Richard Barr, had taken under option "The Grass Harp" property as his new production, agreed to the Celeste Holm proposal. University of Michigan would finance the complete cost of mounting the musical. This opportunity became CFR's chance to get a production mounted to take onto Broadway, financed by the University of Michigan. Celeste would be a featured cast member performing the role "Baby Love" with her heavenly-pride-and-joys. The roulette ball rolling! CFR had to get new orchestrations and adapt the rewrites Kenward Elmslie had recently submitted. CFR, a professional friend with director Ellis Rabb, recommended Ellis to Richard Barr as the musical's director. (Ellis Rabb had never directed a musical in his life, nor would Ellis ever do another musical in his career!). Ellis Rabb brought Michael Tipton, his scenic and lighting designer and costumer Nancy Pptts along. The original Trinity Square cast was evaluated and recast. Barbara Baxley as Dolly Heart Talbo was replaced with Barbara Cook; Carol Bruce as Verena Talbo was replaced with Ruth Ford; Elaine Stritch as Baby Love was replaced with Celeste Holm. James Tilton's stage set had a metal tree trunk and limbs plunked upstage center of the basic main stage set; no casters for moving "in-one" for scenes staged in the tree's branches. Instead, the featured set piece stood planted as a tomb stone center stage, up/towards the back-stage. All musical dance numbers staged up-stage "in-one", while the cast stood "down-stage" observing the action. After the musical closed at Michigan University, the production was moved to NYC, to begin previews October 28th, opening November 2nd. In the transition to Broadway, Celeste Holm had served her purpose of getting the show on track, until everyone decided Celeste was not to be included in the Broadway transfer. CFR's lawyer Rose Caputo was replaced with new legal representation through Richard Barr. Richard Barr wanted Rose Caputo to surrender all of her Claibe Richardson legal material representation. Caputo refused. CFR, nevertheless, got what he wanted with new management, dumping further relations with his friend and lawyer Rose Caputo. The question why was the musical a flop? Between Richard Barr, CFR and Ellis Rabb, Celeste Holm was fired, replaced with Karen Morrow. The physical stage production was doomed with burlap material employed as side leg panels, borders, and as a stage drop masking surround. Burlap brown material is a dense coarse woven fabric which should never be used as stage curtain or stage border configuration because the material absorbs sound, not deflect sound. The audience could hear the orchestra but the cast voices could not get past and over the orchestra pit. The Martin Beck Theatre is an immense theatre auditorium; with little voices, no mikes nor sound support except for Cook and Morrow; a big orchestra for the musical but with no stage hands because there was no scenery to move! Ruth Ford worrying if her silk stocking seam is in a straight line! The musical opened during a newspaper strike with no advance publicity. No advance theatre block-party ticket sales. The musical's closing notice was posted five days after opening November 2nd. The musical can never be revived nor staged because of orchestration copy rights forfeited by CFR and Elmslie.
He and Diana Maddox were awarded the 1981 Drama Logue Award for Outstanding Direction for "Twelfth Night" at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

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